I am addicted to world news, but am picky about the format and source. I generally dislike reading newspapers (except the occasional Wall Street Journal when I am at my mom's house), love The Economist but don't have much patience for other news magazines, and religiously read internet news daily to get the latest on Mozambique (All Africa), the US (New York Times) and Brazil (O Globo). I also like watching local and international news on TV, though the local networks here have a lot to work on in terms of broadcasting quality and content, and the international news channels in our basic cable package (CNN and BBC) I find to be Western-biased and lacking a bit in objectivity.
The other day I was channel surfing trying to find something interesting to watch, and I happily discovered that we have a new source for news: Al Jazeera English. In the few weeks I've been watching, I can resoundingly say this is my favorite source for international news. I appreciate the network's objectives of emphasizing news from the developing world, of "reversing the [North to South] flow of information" and of "setting the news agenda".
From excellent coverage of regional news in the Middle East to the latest headlines from East Timor, Al Jazeera English makes good on its mission. They even have great coverage of news from Africa. When the military weapons depot exploded in Maputo last month, CNN and the BBC included a phrase about the tragedy in their newsfeed footers. Al Jazeera English, however, went above and beyond and was the only network to actually follow up on the story and do local interviews with the people affected by the accident. It's pretty amazing to me that the Maputo explosions didn't make mainstream news. After all, 102 people were killed and over 500 wounded. Then again, I suppose it's not really that surprising. Mozambique isn't exactly at the top of the news agenda for the Anglo/American networks that dominate the international news scene.
Anyhow, in addition to Al Jazeera English's great coverage of stories from the developing world, I think they have what is perhaps the coolest interlude programming in the news today: a documentary series called Couscous & Cola. I caught an episode last month and was immediately hooked.
Couscous & Cola tells the story of a high school debate club in Holland whose members are mostly recent immigrants from countries in Africa and the Middle East. The debate team is planning a trip to the US to participate in a tournament and get to know first-hand a bit of the country that provokes such strong feelings of admiration and hate in the kids and their families. Throughout the episodes, the viewer gets a chance to get to know more about the members of the debate team and their unique worldviews as the students discuss controversial topics and share their thoughts about their experience as immigrants in Holland. The program also follows the process the students must go through to be able to travel to the US, including hurdles such as obtaining their parents' permission, surviving interviews with the Consulate, and the seemingly endless wait to see if they qualify for a visa.
If you have access to Al Jazeera English, I highly recommend watching a bit of news or trying to catch an episode of Couscous & Cola. Even if you are in the US, where an uninformed taboo surrounding the Al Jazeera network makes it difficult to find a cable or satellite company willing to carry the channel, I think it is worth the slight hassle to download some of the news feed from the Al Jazeera English home page. Apparently you can get 15-minute intervals of news at a time on You Tube, though I've yet to try it out.
For more Sunday Scribblings about what we find fascinating, terrifying or intriguing in the news, go here.